Focal is a leading loudspeaker maker from France, while Naim
is one of the most respected English maker of hifi components. And both have
been quiet here in Australia in recent years. Now Melbourne distributor BusiSoft
AV is giving them a renewed appearance in our market. To show off their stuff,
last week BusiSoft AV brought me (and a bunch of others) to the Cubes event
space in Richmond Victoria for its “Reloaded” event.
Why lump a British electronics maker and French loudspeaker maker together? Well, because Focal and Naim have lumped themselves together. For the part few years they have been the main constituents of the VerVent Audio Group. Enough business, let’s get back to the products.
Focal and Naim products on show
The space was dominated by a pair of Focal Scala Utopia Evo loudspeakers (see top picture). These looked for all the world like they were being driven by a DJ’s desk. Indeed, they were … after a fashion. The desk was the source, but between it and the speakers was a Naim power amplifier. Conditions were far from ideal for careful listening, so I’m not going to be making any pronouncements about the performance of individual products. I will note that these are Focal’s top of the line loudspeakers. They are priced at – brace yourself please – $57,000 per pair.
I suspect most people would scoff at anyone who’d consider such an expenditure on a pair of loudspeakers. But enthusiasts in other fields might spend similar sums on restoring a treasured motor car, or purchasing a rare coin, or owning a relatively obscure work of art. An audiophile is someone who prioritises high quality delivery of music over other expenses. Focal and Naim of course attract their attention.
The Utopia Evo speakers are massive, and massive in weight
at 85 kilograms. One of the distinguishing marks of many of Focal’s higher end speakers
are the pure beryllium tweeters. Beryllium is the 4th element in the periodic
table. A metal, it is about thirty per cent lighter than aluminium, has an
extremely high melting point and is an ideal, if expensive, material for
tweeter domes. Or, I should say, inverted domes, which is Focal’s preferred
Four years ago I visited Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco. The company was keen on showing off its Dolby Atmos installation. The speakers it used? Models from Focal with the beryllium inverted dome tweeters.
Headphones as well
Of course, Focal also makes lesser speakers, along with several models of headphones ranging from its $1,599 Elear models to its $5,499 Utopia headphones. The latter uses 40mm pure beryllium “M” shaped domes for drivers while the former gets by with an aluminium/magnesium alloy. The Utopia headphones extend to 50kHz the upper frequency response from the Elear’s 23kHz.
Meanwhile, Naim’s Mu-so and Uniti ranges of products provide
network audio in various units, some acting as sources, some with built-in high-performance
amplifiers to act as all-in-one high-fidelity systems. Some models are fitted
with proximity sensors so that their control dials light up as your hand nears.
They can guide you in what to do. Amongst the products is the Naim Uniti Core
($3,500) which can store up to 100,000 music tracks for serving to the various
players. The Naim Uniti Nova ($7,900) is a full featured music player,
delivering 80 watts into each of its stereo channels.
And despite the music source mostly being digital, Naim
insists on using good old analolgue A/B class amplifiers.
Look, this stuff isn’t for everyone. But if you do want to step up to a higher level of sound quality, Focal and Naim are fine products to check out. See here for links to BusiSoft AV’s brands. See here for our previous coverage of some of Naim’s products, and here for some of Focal’s.
The author attended the Focal and Naim “Reloaded” event as a guest of Busisoft. At the event he was gifted a pair of Focal Elear special edition headphones. He will write about those headphones separately. So far? Lovely.